Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri was born on October 2, 1904 in Mugalsarai, a small railway town seven miles from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. His father was a teacher who died when Lal Bahadur Shastri was only one and a half years old. His mother, still in her twenties, took her three children to her father’s house and settled there.
Lal Bahadur’s small-town education was unremarkable, but he had a happy enough childhood despite the poverty that dogged him. He was sent to live with his uncle in Varanasi so he could go to high school. Nanhe, or “little one” as he was called at home, walked many kilometers to school without shoes, even when the streets burned in the summer heat.
As he grew up, Lal Bahadur Shastri became increasingly interested in the country’s struggle for freedom from foreign yoke. He was greatly impressed by Mahatma Gandhi’s condemnation of Indian princes for their support of British rule in India.
Lal Bahadur Sashtri was only eleven at the time, but the process that would eventually catapult him onto the national stage had already begun in his mind. He was sixteen when Gandhiji called upon his countrymen to join the Non-Cooperation Movement. In response to the Mahatma’s call, he immediately decided to leave his studies. This decision shattered his mother’s hopes.
The family could not dissuade him from what they considered a disastrous course of action. But Lal Bahadur made up his mind. Everyone close to him knew that he would never change his mind once he made up his mind, because behind his soft exterior was the strength of a rock.
Lal Bahadur Shastri joined the Kashi Vidya Peeth in Varanasi, one of the many national institutions set up in defiance of the British government. There he came under the influence of the greatest intellectuals and nationalists of the country. “Shastri” was the bachelor’s title bestowed upon him by the Vidya Peeth, but it stuck in people’s minds as part of his name.
In 1927 he got married. His wife Lalita Devi was from Mirzapur near his hometown. The wedding was traditional in every sense but one. A spinning wheel and a few yards of hand-spun cloth were all dowries. The groom would not accept anything more.
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contribution of Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri in India’s freedom struggle:
•In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi marched on the sea beach at Dandi and broke the Imperial Salt Act. The symbolic gesture ignited the whole country. Lal Bahadur Shastri threw himself into the freedom struggle with feverish energy. He led many defiant campaigns and spent a total of seven years in British prisons. It was in the fire of this match that his steel was refined and he matured.
•When the Congress came to power after independence, the sterling worth of the apparently mild and modest Lal Bahadur Shastri was already recognized as the leader of the national struggle. When the Congress government was formed in 1946, this “little dynamo of a man” was called upon to play a constructive role in the administration of the country. He was appointed Parliamentary Secretary in his home state of Uttar Pradesh and soon rose to the position of Home Minister.
•Lal Bahadur Shastri ability to work hard and his efficiency became a proverb in Uttar Pradesh. He moved to New Delhi in 1951 and held several positions in the Union Cabinet – Minister for Railways; Minister of Transport and Communications; Minister of Trade and Industry; Interior Minister; and during Nehru’s illness a minister without portfolio. It was constantly growing. He resigned from his post as railway minister because he felt responsible for the railway accident that claimed his life. The unprecedented gesture was greatly appreciated by the parliament and the country.
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•The Prime Minister Pt. Speaking about the incident in Parliament, Nehru praised the integrity and high ideals of Lal Bahadur Shastri. He said he was accepting the resignation because it would be an example of constitutional propriety and not because Lal Bahadur Shastri was in any way responsible for what happened.
Responding to the long debate on the railway accident, Lal Bahadur Shastri said; “Maybe because I’m small and soft-spoken, people tend to believe that I’m not capable of being too firm. Even though I’m not physically strong, I think I’m not that weak on the inside.”
•Between his ministerial duties, he continued to flaunt his organizational skills in the affairs of the Congress Party. The party’s landslide successes in the general elections of 1952, 1957 and 1962 were largely the result of his complete identification with the cause and his organizational genius.
•Lal Bahadur Shastri had more than thirty years of dedicated service. During this period he became known as a man of great integrity and ability. Humble, tolerant, with great inner strength and determination, he was a man of the people who understood their speech. He was also a man of vision who led the country to progress.
• Lal Bahadur Shastri was deeply influenced by the political teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. “Hard work is equal to prayer,” he once said in accents deeply reminiscent of his Master. In the direct tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri represented the best in Indian culture.
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